Planning is essential when you have a full timetable and a lot of different year groups and abilities to cater for. You need to juggle the content that you have to cover, differentiate learning for your students and face the unexpected twists that come with the profession.
Planning is useful to ensure that you know how your pupils will make progress over time. A lot of this is trial and error. If they don’t grasp a mathematical formula in a single lesson, you know to plan across multiple periods the next time something similar needs to be covered.
This means that you should also plan for your learning to connect. For example, you can map out a clear learning journey for your pupils by setting up for the next lesson. The classic method of an introduction, a lesson and a plenary is common for a reason, as it can help reinforce the learning.
There are certain things that you should always try to do in advance of a lesson. Identify opportunities to praise your students. Positive recognition helps motivate learners and boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Wouldn’t it be great if that encouragement is the moment that they remember from school for the rest of their life? You can make it happen.
However, you also have to pre-empt disruptive behaviour to maximise the chance of a successful lesson. Think about the time of day that the lesson is taking place. For example, the activities you can plan on a Friday afternoon, during a charity week or at the end of term will be very different to a Tuesday morning. Summer lessons can have a different tone and challenges to a winter lesson.
Start the lesson in a positive way, greeting students at the door and checking in with them as they go along. This will help to minimise low-level disruption and start as you mean to go on. If students struggle to access the material, you could use a hook to engage them. For example, a question to think about or an image to provoke discussion is a useful trump card to have up your sleeve if you are being stared down by blank faces.
Finally, there are some simple teaching hacks that are useful to have in your planning arsenal. Having some backup questions is essential in the situation where your line of questioning doesn’t work how you expected.
Seating plans are worth poring over and refining over time to see how they affect behaviour and productivity. PowerPoint timers are a useful aid to keep you on schedule and pupils enjoy the structure they generate.
Nonetheless, there are limits to your time and you cannot plan everything. In fact, you should avoid overplanning because you want your lessons to be flexible and spontaneous. Those moments are often where the real spark of teaching kicks in and students learn something about your subject for life.
Are you interested in studying a degree in teaching? Our Education courses at CU Scarborough and CU London give you the skills and knowledge you need for a career in the field.